Auction to be launched Thursday to sell state liquor-store rights
An outgrowth of Initiative 1183, the online bidding for liquor-store location rights will be the first of its type in the nation.
Seattle Times business reporter
Almost three months before the state of Washington is to stop selling liquor, its Liquor Control Board will launch an online auction Thursday to sell the right to sell liquor at 167 existing state-run liquor stores.
It's the country's first-ever auction of state liquor-store location rights, according to board spokesman Brian Smith.
In the early 1990s, West Virginia auctioned rights to sell liquor for 10 years. Bids averaged $220,000 each, with a maximum bid of $675,000.
"This is not the same. This is auctioning exceptions to the law — 167 exceptions," Smith said.
They are exceptions to a provision in Initiative 1183, approved by voters in November, that requires retail stores selling liquor, beginning June 1, to measure at least 10,000 square feet. None of the state's existing stores is that big, Smith said.
Winning bidders still must qualify and pay for liquor licenses with the state.
Smith declined to provide details of the auction until Thursday morning, when the Liquor Control Board has planned a media event at a store south of downtown Seattle to drum up interest in the auction.
Beyond the locations being auctioned, roughly 160 other liquor stores are owned by entrepreneurs who contract with the state. They can keep selling liquor and are exempt from the minimum-size requirement.
The state decided to hold the auction now rather than after June 1 so the new owners can be ready to sell liquor on that date, Smith said. It also gives the state possible buyers for its existing product inventory.
The Liquor Control Board has taken 987 applications from retailers, including BevMo and Target, that want to sell liquor beginning June 1.
I-1183 faces court challenges in Cowlitz and King counties.
Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or email@example.com.